Academic journal article Hemispheres

Turkey-Armenia Rapprochement and Its Impact on Iran-Armenia Relations

Academic journal article Hemispheres

Turkey-Armenia Rapprochement and Its Impact on Iran-Armenia Relations

Article excerpt

Introduction

Relations between Yerevan and Ankara have been tense since the birth of Armenian independence. While Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of Armenia in 1991, the two countries did not have formal diplomatic relations for 17 years. Three main factors can be mentioned as the reason behind this situation.1 The first and the most important factor is Armenia's request to Turkey to recognize the genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915, and the necessity for Ankara to formally apologize for the massacre whilst compensating for material and spiritual losses. This request has been strongly rejected by all Turkish governments.

The second factor is related to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute and its occupation by Armenia throughout the bloody war of 1992. Due to national and ethnic links between Turkey and the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ankara has offered its unbridled support to Baku against Yerevan in this case. Severing diplomatic relations and imposing economic sanctions against Armenia in addition to a closing of the border between the two countries have been the most important measures taken by Turkish leaders against Armenia during the past two decades.2 The third factor, which is somewhat less important but nonetheless significant, is Ankara's request from Yerevan to recognize the two countries' existing boundaries, and Yerevan's insistence on considering the eastern part of Turkey as Western Armenia.3 However, despite these obstacles and challenges, the Armenian and Turkish leaders have taken significant diplomatic steps toward improving bilateral relations during recent years, under internal, regional and international pressures, which have given birth to new regional trends. As a result of such developments, Ankara and Yerevan started bilateral negotiations for the first time in Geneva in August 2007, in a bid to put an end to the 19-year standoff. During these negotiations, the two countries' diplomats reached basic agreements on good neighborly relations. As a result of these agreements, in September 2008, former Turkish President Abdullah GUI made a historic visit to Yerevan to watch a football game between the two countries' national teams.4 Giil's visit to Armenia was the first by a Turkish senior official since the independence of Armenia.

In fact, efforts by Yerevan and Ankara to reestablish diplomatic relations through football diplomacy resembled the "ping-pong" diplomacy that former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger used to establish relations between China and the United States in 1960s. Following the exchange of expert delegations and several rounds of diplomatic consultations between the two countries in January 2009, the Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and former Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan5, met on the sidelines of the Davos World Economic Forum in Zurich, Switzerland. This meeting further expedited the negotiations between the two countries and proved that high-level political will was needed to change the relations between the two countries. The meeting was also followed by calls from both sides at different levels for more political closeness between the two countries. Meanwhile, development in Turkey-Iran relations, despite an escalation of international sanctions against Iran, proved that the two countries were not willing to ignore the considerable capacities stemming from their mutual interests to engage in regional and trans-regional political games. Turkey also tried to play a positive role in Iran's nuclear negotiations with the "5+1 Group" and made serious efforts to reduce international pressures on Iranian economy. Although the Syria crisis caused a deterioration of Iran-Turkey relations, Erdogan's recent visit to Tehran was a clear attempt to improve the two countries relations6 following the corruption scandal that rocked the Turkish government.

Armenia's motivations for establishing relations with Turkey

The first factor influencing the foreign policy of Armenia is the country's geographical position. …

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